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January astronomy highlights

Horse Head and Flame Nebula

January 3,4th the Quadrantids Meteor Shower

The Quadrantids Metor Shower is classed as an above average shower, not as spectacular as last month’s.

The Quadrantids produce up to 40 meteors per hour at their peak, its well worth looking out for. The shower usually peaks on January 3 and 4, but you can expect some meteors to be visible a day or so either side of this date.

Hopefully the weather will give us a better chance of seeing something this time. The moon should not interfere too much so it should be a good show.

Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Look out for the meteors radiating from the constellation Bootes.

January 9th Full moon January 23rd New moon

Telescopic targets for this month

Orion the Hunter. Orion is our most recognised winter constellation and next to the Plough, Ursa Major it is probably the easiest constellation to spot in the night sky.

The most recognisable feature being three stars that make up Orion’s belt, almost but not quite a straight line. These stars were mirrored on the Earth by the ancient pyramids of Egypt. The left hand star in the belt is called Alnitak and is surrounded by interesting Nebulae including the famous Horse Head and Flame Nebula. These objects are amongst the most spectacular and well known deep objects in the northern hemisphere.

Notoriously difficult to observe visually, huge telescopes are needed to see them, however they emerge as spectacular objects when photographed through even modest telescopes.

Looking south from the middle star of the belt you come to a strange looking fuzzy patch of light that looks decidedly un-star like to the naked eye. This is the famous Orion Nebula catalogue no M42. Probably the most photographed object in the Northern sky, spectacular in large telescopes, small telescopes will show detail in the Nebula and the Trapezium stars in the centre that illuminate it from within.

A notable star in Orion is the red giant Betelgeuse pronounced by some as beetlejuice. Located in the top left corner of the constellation. This super red giant has evolved rapidly. In the future it will end its life as a spectacular Supernova explosion

Binocular targets for this month:

These include the famous Orion Nebula, the Great Andromeda spiral galaxy, easily recognised in binoculars and the Hyades star cluster in Taurus the Bull

Last month we said goodbye to Sir Patrick. The great man departed this world on December 9th. He was an inspiration to me and thousands of others. Astronomy will not be the same without him.